Tag Archives: work-life balance

Balancing Law Careers: Overcoming the Motherhood Penalty

The legal profession, traditionally known for its demanding nature, often presents unique challenges for those striving to balance the responsibilities of a legal career with those of parenthood. The stark realities presented by a recent American Bar Association Commission on Women report highlight the urgent need for industry-wide change. This report, informed by the experiences of more than 8,000 lawyers, puts into perspective the disproportionate burden borne by lawyer mothers when it comes to childcare and domestic responsibilities.

The statistics are more than just numbers—they are a reflection of a day-to-day struggle many lawyer parents face. “Balancing the rigor of a legal career with the demands of parenting is a tightrope walk many of us face daily,” shares J’lene Mortimer, a former attorney turned recruiter at Lateral Link. “I remember being an associate trying to figure out how to navigate my responsibilities when my toddler son was home sick and unable to attend daycare. It is not easy, especially when you do not have family or friends in the area who can step in to support you. Fortunately, I was at a firm that supported me and had given me a part-time role so I could have more flexibility. I am grateful for their understanding of my situation at that time.”

This sentiment is at the heart of our mission. It’s about understanding the personal narratives behind these figures and transforming them into positive outcomes. The ‘motherhood penalty’—a term that surfaces all too frequently in discussions about workplace equality—is not just a buzzword but a barrier that must be dismantled. Lawyer mothers report feeling sidelined due to the very role that should be celebrated for its skills in multitasking, leadership, and time management.

Addressing this imbalance, Jennifer Anderson, another Lateral Link recruiter who combines her legal expertise with her insights as a parent, emphasizes the need for actionable solutions. “Every day we hear from parents who are striving for a workplace that doesn’t just offer lip service to work-life balance but embodies it,” she says. “Our charge goes beyond placements; it’s about shifting the narrative and creating an environment where women don’t have to justify their dual roles as mothers and lawyers.”

At Lateral Link, the conversation around these issues is deeply personal. We understand that when lawyer parents are supported, the entire legal ecosystem benefits. It’s not just about finding a job; it’s about forging a career in a space that honors one’s full identity, both as legal professionals and parents. We’re here to guide lawyer parents to firms that will celebrate their dedication to their families as a strength and not view it as a distraction.

As recruiters, we take pride in our dual roles as career strategists and advocates for change, ensuring that every lawyer parent we work with is empowered to achieve their professional goals without sacrificing their family commitments. We stand committed to advancing a legal industry that values inclusivity and equity, one placement at a time.

In crafting a legal profession that truly respects work-life integration, we invite our peers, partners, and the wider legal community to join us in this pursuit. The goal is clear: to foster a landscape where the contributions of lawyer parents are not just acknowledged but seen as vital to the richness and diversity of our profession.

Charting Your Course: An In-Depth Resource for Law Students Navigating Multiple Job Offers

Embarking on the journey of a law student entails numerous critical choices, of which, selecting among multiple summer associate or first-year associate propositions stands paramount. At Lateral Link, we appreciate the significance of this decision. Our crew of seasoned legal talent finders, many of whom have trodden the path of summer associates themselves, impart a profound knowledge base and guidance, empowering you to make an enlightened choice.

Assessing Law Firm Offers Beyond the Facade of Rankings

Though rankings may shed some light on a firm’s accomplishments, they can inadvertently offer a skewed perspective. Abby Gordon, co-director of our Northeast associate recruitment division and a past summer associate and associate at Cleary Gottlieb, articulates this concept as, “Choosing a firm transcends mere rankings. While the prestige of your first firm undeniably paves the way for future career opportunities, there is more to it. It equally revolves around identifying the perfect alignment for your ambitions, interests, and ethical values.” Scrutinizing a firm’s work environment, stability, and resonance with your career aspirations is indispensable. For further insights on firm selection, refer to Abby’s counsel in a past ATL piece.

Holistic Evaluation of Influencing Variables

“Approach your opportunities with a comprehensive perspective, taking into account your immediate and long-term personal and professional objectives,” recommends Matt Bennett, a California-based Lateral Link recruiter, USC Gould School of Law graduate, and previous summer associate at Snell & Wilmer. “I consistently encourage candidates to strategize their thinking, to not just fixate on whether they fancy a firm’s current practice, and this mindset can be immensely beneficial to newly minted attorneys fresh from law school. Delve into the firm’s culture, geographical presence, practice domains, mentorship programs, benefits, work-life equilibrium, partnership prospects, hourly obligations, remuneration, and incentives. Consider the professional relationships that you can cultivate in the firm and their potential trajectory. These are critical considerations, especially when you are just initiating your legal career and lack the foresight that experience gifts. Extend your thinking beyond macro-level professional objectives: contemplate how the attributes of a firm might facilitate your short and long-term personal and lifestyle objectives. Endeavor to envision your evolving work and life aspirations as time progresses,” Bennett elaborates. Scrutinize whether the firm champions diversity, nurtures a collegial atmosphere, and offers pro bono opportunities, particularly if these aspects are valuable to you.

Tailored Guidance from Lateral Link Recruiters

Our recruiters understand the intricacies involved in choosing between multiple offers. “Lateral Link’s team consists of past attorneys and law firm recruiters. We can offer personalized advice drawn from our market knowledge, firm-specific intel, and industry connections,” shares Amy Langan, Manager of Professional Development & Law School Relations. To encourage a comprehensive dialogue about your career trajectory, Lateral Link extends a complimentary 15-minute discussion to address law students’ queries and offer direction.

The Impact of Your First Law Firm

Your inaugural law firm can exert a substantial impact on your legal career’s trajectory. To demonstrate this, Gloria Cannon, our Managing Principal, recites her experience from her law school OCI tenure:

“After deliberating offers from numerous Am Law 200 firms, I chose to spend my 2L summer at Milbank’s LA office, where I was exposed to corporate, real estate, litigation, and bankruptcy/financial restructuring practices. After my law school graduation, I joined Milbank’s financial restructuring team due to its esteemed reputation, cordial culture, and the size of the group, which allowed me to swiftly take on significant responsibilities with extensive client interactions.

One of our primary clients was Oaktree Capital Management, a distinguished Los Angeles-based asset management firm, for whom I executed a considerable amount of work. Consequently, during my 5th year, Oaktree’s General Counsel directly invited me to join their in-house legal team. I wouldn’t have encountered this fantastic in-house opportunity had I not been a summer associate at Milbank.”

This anecdote underlines the delicate dynamics involved in deciding between multiple offers – the decision transcends the work type and encapsulates firm culture, training, and long-term career opportunities.

Deciding on Your Legal Career’s Initial Steps

The decision should reflect your career ambitions, personal values, and lifestyle preferences. While mentors, professors, and recruiters can extend guidance, the ultimate decision rests with you. “Refrain from focusing on prestige or peer choices. Prioritize the decision that best aligns with your future goals. Apart from the numerous variables to consider, trust your intuition when assessing firms and the lawyers you have interacted with during interviews or over the summer,” advises Langan, a former recruiter for multiple Am Law 200 firms.

Perceiving the Broader Career Landscape

The path to a triumphant legal career comprises diverse opportunities. Each decision you make contributes to your comprehensive career evolution. While the choice of your first firm is unquestionably critical, it is merely one of the many vital decisions that will sculpt your legal career.

Lateral Link recruiters are dedicated to assisting law students in navigating multiple offer decisions. We are at your side throughout this journey, ensuring your choices align with your career objectives and personal ethics, enabling you to make the most advantageous choice for your future legal profession.

If you wish to connect with one of our recruiters to discuss your offer options, please contact Amy Langan at or via LinkedIn.

Lawyer Mental Health Crisis: Unveiling 2023 Data, Trends, and Essential Resources for Building Healthier Legal Careers

Unveiling the Escalating Mental Health Crisis in the Legal Profession: Hard-hitting Statistics

Mental health awareness in the legal profession has become critical, with disturbing statistics spotlighting an escalating crisis. The perceived increase in substance abuse and mental health issues among legal practitioners is staggering, leaping from 41.19% in 2019 to a distressing 49.31% in 2023. This data highlights the urgent need for law firms to proactively facilitate mental health support. Lawyers should explore the mental health resources available in their firms, including assistance programs. If such programs are lacking, it might be necessary to seek a firm that prioritizes mental health support. Lawyers can also engage in mental health education programs, seek professional help when necessary, and cultivate a supportive network within their peers for better mental health.

Depression and Anxiety in Legal Professionals: An Urgent Call for Intervention Amid Rising Trends

Mental health struggles, specifically depression and anxiety, have seen a disturbing rise among legal professionals. Recorded depression cases have escalated from 31.17% in 2019 to 38.27% in 2023, while anxiety rates have shot up from 63.95% in 2019 to a peak of 71.10% in 2023. This alarming surge underscores the urgent need for comprehensive mental health management in law firms. Lawyers should consider adopting mindfulness practices, ensuring regular exercise, maintaining proper nutrition, and achieving adequate sleep for better mental health management.

Substance Abuse and Rising Suicide Rates Among Lawyers: An Unfolding Silent Crisis

Work-induced stress-related substance abuse remains a prevalent issue in the legal profession, which also faces a disturbing trend in suicide rates. As of 2023, 14.83% of legal professionals reported knowing a colleague who committed suicide in the past two years, and 15.73% admitted to contemplating suicide during their legal careers. These alarming trends underscore the critical need to tackle substance abuse and promote mental health in law firms. Lawyers should seek help if struggling, reach out to support services, and participate in peer support programs for improved mental health.

Work-Life Balance in the Legal Profession: Lawyers’ Struggle to Unplug

Despite the escalating mental health crisis, there’s a positive trend of lawyers taking some or all of their vacation time. However, achieving a genuine work-life balance and disconnecting from work stress remains elusive for over 68% of lawyers. This struggle highlights the need for law firms to develop strategies that encourage mental health awareness and work disconnection. Lawyers can establish work boundaries, regularly disconnect from digital devices, and engage in hobbies and activities that promote relaxation and mental health.

Mental Health Resources in Law Firms: The Ongoing Battle Between Perception and Utilization

While there is a slight decrease in the perception of equal access to mental health and substance abuse programs within law firms, Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs), and comprehensive health insurance packages are emerging as the most widely used mental health resources. Nevertheless, the challenge of effectively tackling mental health in law firms persists, indicating the need for further promotion and utilization of these resources. Lawyers should proactively use available resources and feel confident communicating their mental health needs to their firms’ management, fostering an environment that supports open discussions about mental health.

Pressure from Clients and Lean Teams: Its Toll on Lawyers’ Mental Health

Incessant workloads and unreasonable client demands continue to be significant stressors impacting lawyers’ mental health adversely. Furthermore, leaner teams exert considerable pressure, further straining lawyers’ mental well-being. However, an encouraging trend is that law firms are increasingly resisting these unreasonable client demands, indicating a shift towards a healthier work environment.

Law firms themselves can help alleviate this pressure by implementing policies that promote task delegation and encouraging open communication about workloads. Firms can also offer training to enhance time management skills, and consider augmenting their teams or utilizing technology to manage work more efficiently, thereby reducing the stress placed on their lawyers.

Lawyers can contribute to better managing this pressure by learning to delegate tasks effectively, communicating their workload concerns to their superiors, and honing efficient time management skills. Proactive action from both lawyers and their firms is necessary to maintain mental health in the legal profession.

Mental Health in the Legal Profession’s Future: A Mix of Concern and Hope

While many lawyers envision a future within the legal profession, a trend of discouraging loved ones from pursuing a career in law reflects profound concerns about the impact of this profession on personal relationships and mental health. This scenario is a call to action, emphasizing the need to place more focus on mental health support within law firms. Lawyers can foster a more positive future by engaging in open discussions about mental health, advocating for more supportive resources, and practicing self-care to protect their mental well-being.

At Lateral Link, we recognize these challenges and are committed to supporting legal professionals in navigating their careers towards healthier work-life balance. Choose a fulfilling legal career path with Lateral Link that prioritizes your mental health. Prioritize organizations and firms that place emphasis on mental health support and provide a balanced work-life environment, thus ensuring sustainable legal careers.

Hybrid Work and Generational Divide: Navigating Differences in Modern Law Firm Practices

More than three years after COVID-19 upended where and how we work, law firm offices in some ways resemble the pre-pandemic normal. Attorneys mingle freely at in-person gatherings. Face masks and hand sanitizer have receded. But one thing is still starkly different: just how many desks are unoccupied on any given day.

Return-to-office policies are not uniform

One might have predicted that Biglaw firms would potentially use their return-to-office policies as a recruiting tactic that resulted in uniform policies given the fierce competition for talent and the ensuing (and somewhat uniform) salary increases over the past few years. The competition for talent has cooled as firms have learned to deal with COVID-19, however, and firms are moving towards bringing their attorneys back into the office on at least a hybrid basis. Superficially, it may seem that Biglaw has arrived at something approaching consensus: a survey released in January found that a third of Am Law 100 firms mandate three days per week of in-office presence, with another third encouraging three days in office. But dig a little deeper, and you find a surprising lack of convergence as firms determine what works best for their needs.

For instance, O’Melveny and Myers, like its peer firms, wants attorneys to spend more time in the office. But instead of specifying a set number of days per week, O’Melveny has announced an expectation that lawyers be present in the office for more than half the time over the course of the year. This policy emerged from a series of town halls and surveys, which delivered the clear message that flexibility was important to O’Melveny attorneys.

Even among the firms with a three-day mandate or expectation, there is no consensus on who chooses the days. Some firms have designated “anchor days,” either at an office or practice group level, where the whole team is expected to go in together. Several Morgan Lewis practice groups have recently mandated attendance on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, justifying the decision in part by noting that summer associates will be in the office on those days. Meanwhile, other firms allow lawyers to choose any three days.

And then there is the matter of compliance. Despite supposed “mandates,” noncompliance has been widespread at many firms, with limited attempts at enforcement. Many firms have preferred carrots to sticks, offering incentives such as free lunch to entice lawyers to come in. But some have been more pointed, making payout of annual bonuses contingent upon in-office attendance. Firms taking that stand include: Simpson Thacher, Sidley Austin, Davis Polk, Cahill, and Ropes & Gray.

The generational divide

So why are we seeing a lack of convergence regarding a model for the future of work at law firms? A key factor is generational differences, particularly among seasoned attorneys and junior attorneys.

Firm and practice group leaders entered the profession under very different circumstances from those of today’s junior associates. Two or three decades ago, the notion of a lawyer routinely working from home would have sounded strange. The early-career experiences of today’s senior partners were defined by long hours in the office, yes, but also by substantial in-person mentorship and training.

Given that background, it’s unsurprising that firm leadership is eager for associates to return, both for cultural and developmental reasons. It’s difficult to build culture when attorneys are remote, and effective training in a remote setting is challenging. When law firm leaders consider how they became partners—by creating strong ties with the partnership while they were associates—they struggle to conceive of how a fully remote associate could build comparable relationships and successfully navigate the path to partnership. 

Meanwhile, at the base of the pyramid are Gen Z associates who graduated from law school during the pandemic and began their law firm careers in a fully remote setting. Now that these junior lawyers are (largely) expected to be back in the office, they miss the flexibility. I sometimes receive questions about whether it’s possible to find a fully remote job at a firm. One current Biglaw junior associate recently asked me if he could go to a smaller firm with a lower hours expectation and work remotely. When I brought up the professional development benefits of in-person work for early-career attorneys, he responded that he was not sure if he wanted to practice law long-term, let alone become a law firm partner. He also mentioned that he put a premium on work-life balance and flexibility, which he thought remote work could help him achieve.

This candidate is hardly alone. A recent survey of Gen Z attorneys found that 60% would sacrifice compensation for a flexible work schedule and just 23% aspire to be a law firm partner. Gen Z also prioritizes work-life balance and flexibility.

Having been a judicial law clerk for over a year and a law firm associate for almost five years, I also know that the first five years of practice are critical for skills development, even if partnership is not necessarily in your future. I benefited tremendously from in-person mentorship and training, and I still value my mentorship and training even though I no longer practice law. When candidates ask about fully remote positions, I tell them that some midsize and boutique firms do not have a formal policy for days in the office. But I advise them to consider various types of firms with hybrid schedules, both to keep all their options open and to accelerate their development of transferable skills, for if and when they do leave the law firm track.

Ultimately, the generations are each going to have to give some ground in acknowledgment of the other’s reasonable perspectives. It remains to be seen how firms will treat hybrid or remote work to promote work-life balance and attract (and retain) talent. Whatever the equilibrium is, we haven’t reached it yet.